Story: The Doctor and Ace brace themselves for their final confrontation with the time-manipulating Timewyrm, with whom they’ve done battle from the dawn of man to World War II and beyond. But the Timewyrm sets a subtle trap for them as its final gambit, luring them out onto the surface of the moon sans protective gear. Ace is left on the brink of death, forced to relive repeated encounters with Chad Boyle, a schoolyard bully who once tried to kill her as a show of playground superiority. The Timewyrm then hold the Doctor’s tormented companion hostage to ensure his cooperation – but she hasn’t anticipated that the Time Lord would receive help from a handful of strangers, including an out-of-place couple, a bewildered vicar, and a psychic entity living within the structure of a country church.
Review: For years, I kept away from any mention of “Timewyrm: Revelation”. The book simply did not appear on the bookshelves near my home in 1992, and I never got to find out how the Timewyrm cycle which kick-started the New Adventures novels came to an end. Not until ten years later.
Why so gung-ho about this one book, when I long ago sold or gave away much of the rest of my New Adventures books? For one thing, it’s by Paul Cornell, my favorite Doctor Who author, and not only that, but it’s his first Who novel and forms the first of a loosely-connected series of four such books. And by God, I stayed right away from the spoilers for ten years until I got to read it myself.
So was it worth the wait? Well, sort of. In some ways, I’m a tad disappointed – Cornell’s journey into the Doctor’s inner consciousness, complete with appearances from the first, third, fourth and fifth Doctors (along with deceased companions Adric, Katarina and Sara Kingdom), seems like a bit of fanboyish fluff. The first and fifth incarnations of the Doctor are used in an interesting way, at least. In one other scene, Ace runs into a quasi-Shakespearean trio of witches who offer an explanation of the female companion’s archetypal role in the Doctor’s adventures, and all of a sudden I wondered if I was reading fiction, or if I was reading a scholarly literary deconstruction of Doctor Who in general, jammed awkwardly into a work of fiction.
It’s an entertaining read for the most part despite these odd indulgences of the author, though I’m sure that, against the straightforward, largely uncomplicated and very traditional Doctor Who adventures that the first three Timewyrm books represented, “Revelation” must have been a tremendous culture shock to fandom way back when. (And not just fandom either – legend has it that the late John Nathan-Turner, then still just stepping down from the producer’s office of Doctor Who on television, objected strenuously to Cornell’s initial manuscript and was overridden by editor Peter Darvill-Evans.) Paul Cornell’s books only got better from here on out.
Author: Paul Cornell